Author ~ Rachel Davidson Leigh
Publisher ~ Duet Books
Published ~ 20th October 2016
Genre ~ Young Adult, Contemporary M/M, Magical Realism
Luke Aday knew that his sister’s death was imminent—she had been under hospice care for months—but that didn’t make her death any easier on him or their family. He returns to school three days after the funeral to a changed world; his best friends welcome him back with open arms, but it isn’t the same. When a charismatic new student, Eddie Sankawulo, tries to welcome Luke to his own school, something life-changing happens: In a moment of frustration, Luke runs into an empty classroom, hurls his backpack against the wall—and the backpack never lands. Luke Aday has just discovered that he can stop time.
This was quite a difficult review to write, but only because of who I’m writing it for. This is not a romance, it is very much a Young Adult book, and I believe, an important one because I think it’s one than young adults will enjoy, and get more out of, than older adults.
There were times when the characters seemed much younger than they were. I don’t think (but I may be wrong because I wasn’t paying attention to it at the start) the ages of the characters were specifically mentioned, but I’d assumed they were in their early teens until a comment, about half way through, that one of the characters looked as if he was still only thirteen, which aged them at least a couple of years. Perhaps because of my earlier misconception, I found it difficult to view them as older throughout. It’s not fair to say this is because of their behaviour because, although they certainly do act and react like much younger children on occasion, I think this is true of most children of between sixteen and eighteen which I think is the true age range.
I remember my daughter at eighteen. One minute she was a grown up with all the answers and the next a crying mess wanting Mammy to make it better because some drama or other happened and the world was ending. Overall, I think the writer was true and consistent with her characters and their ages.
There was something very real about this book. It sucked me in and I was there with the characters. For most of the book nothing hugely dramatic happens, other than the tremendous dramas of just living life. There were the usual teenage bumblings, making dramas from everything, blowing things out of proportion, being incredibly stupid and messing up personal relationships. I wouldn’t say there were a heap of misunderstandings, more mistaken assumptions and wrongly read situations, that kept the story bowling along. It’s one of those stories where nothing much happens on the outside but what’s happening on the inside keeps us all riveted.
The book is beautifully written with some absolutely lovely use of language “The February wind hit him like an accusation.” “It was the kindest silence.” “Several dozen ancient desks huddled together like survivors of war.”
It also introduced me to my new favourite word “Glomming”.
I am torn with regard to my feelings about the “superpower” after which the book is named. At the beginning of the book, Luke has just returned to school after spending a week in a hospice waiting for his disabled sister to die. He’s lost and broken and unable to step back onto the roundabout that’s carried on spinning without him. He needs everything to just stop for a minute, and the universe obliges.
Luke finds out he can stop (Hold) time. Everything and everyone freezes while he, alone goes on. Of course, his friends immediately lead him astray and talk him into walking into someone’s house just to see if he can. That’s when the whole mess with Eddie begins.
Through the book the Hold comes into play now and again, when Luke needs to take a breath. There’s no great drama to it, no fuss, although Dee and Marcos would like to see a lot more of that, possibly involving a cape. They talk about purpose – where did it come from and why – and what exactly were they going to do with it. Right from the start, Luke finds the Hold extremely personal and doesn’t feel comfortable with doing anything overt with it. He definitely didn’t want his friends involved. They, however, insisted on involving themselves, and there was talk about superhero names and suchlike.
The only thing that lost me in this book was that none of these discussions led anywhere and there were no answers. Yes, the Hold came in useful. It was crucial to the plot and was delicately and skilfully woven into the story in a “no big deal” kind of way, but nothing was ever resolved. At the end of the book everything remained hanging. There was no explanation of how Luke did it, why or how it started, where it came from. No one was shocked by it and no one wondered where it was leading. It was just something that happened and when we got to the end of the book it wasn’t needed anymore so we just stopped talking about it. I would have liked to see a little more exploration and a bit more explanation, or even reaching an understanding that there was no explanation anyone was likely to find.
It’s a small frustration though and not worth more than half a star. On the whole, I like the way the Hold was treated as if it was no big deal, and that Marcos, and particularly Dee were like dogs with a bone and wouldn’t let Luke drop the subject. I’d like to have known a little more of what Eddie thought about it, and why he wasn’t affected by it like everyone else, but that’s not really important.
I would recommend this book highly, especially to people who like school stories with interesting twists. I don’t know if anyone else will see it, but it reminded me of Harry Potter without the magic. I loved it!
I will leave you with my favourite line from the book where Luke muses that
Real life needs more editing.
Meet Rachel Davidson Leigh
Rachel Davidson Leigh is a teacher, a writer and an avid fan of young adult LGBTQ fiction. Her hobbies include overanalyzing television shows and playing matchmaker with book recommendations. Currently, she lives in Wisconsin with her family and two neurotic little dogs. Hold is her debut novel. Her short story “Beautiful Monsters” was featured in Summer Love, a collection of short stories published by Duet Books, the young adult imprint of Interlude Press.